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Toshiba touts DVD/HD DVD hybrid

Dual-layer disc to smooth hi-def format adoption

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Toshiba and fellow Japanese technology company Memory-Tech have developed the obvious successor to DualDisc: a disc that incorporates both DVD and an HD DVD playback surfaces.

Unlike DualDisc, which mounts a regular CD on the back of a DVD Audio disc, the Toshiba/Memory-Tech system uses a dual-layer structure so both formats can be played off one side of the disc.

Both discs indicate a lack of confidence in consumer demand for the higher-resolution formats. While punters readily enough dropped vinyl LPs and cassettes for CDs, they have yet to show the same enthusiasm for DVD Audio or its Sony alternative, Super Audio CD. While both offer much better audio quality than CD, their respected supporters have yet to push either format to the mass-market, preferring to target audiophiles.

DualDisc is seen as a way of enticing ordinary listeners over to the new format, but allowing recording companies to issue single-package product that supports CD along with DVD Audio, ensuring backward compatibility with today's hi-fi equipment, but allowing punters to build up a library of high-res material without being forced to splash out on a new player straight away.

The Toshiba/Memory-Tech system would presumably work the same way, allowing consumers to obtain hi-definition video content long before they feel the need to upgrade to the new technology. When they do, they'll have a ready supply of content. Having the content already is also likely to encourage consumers to upgrade to the higher-quality format sooner rather than later.

And with Sony pushing Blu-ray as an alternative to HD DVD, Toshiba undoubtedly hopes that that availability of cross-generation content will help shift the market toward the latter format rather than Sony's alternative. Toshiba recently said four major pre-recorded DVD providers have committed to HD DVD. While the format has the strength of the phenomenally popular DVD brand, it's still up against the Sony marketing machine and - crucially - the Playstation 3's role as a Blu-ray market seeder.

Both systems also assume that consumers are not going to go on a big media replacement binge like the music industry saw when buyers shifted to CD.

Both formats' success will depend on broad label adoption and non-preferential pricing. If they significantly cost more than vanilla DVDs, few buyers beyond those who'll quickly adopt HD DVD anyway will choose the hybrids.

The first discs will hold 4.7GB of DVD data and 15GB of HD DVD content, the two companies said. ®

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